If this is true, Arthur Miller was a douchebag

January 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Entertainment, Literature | 2 Comments
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So Arthur Miller gave the world The Crucible, thank you. He divorced his wife Mary to be able to marry Marilyn Monroe the same month (June 1956), what ever. Happens all over the place. They filmed The Misfits together – I’ve not in any other MM movie seen the camera treat her with such disrespect. The scene where she plays with this ping pong toy (I have no name for it) and where the camera zooms in on nothing but her wiggling bum while (macsuline-voiced) bystanders cheer her on – enraging. Oh well. If Arthur Miller or Norman Mailer or Henry Miller do it, it’s art. Miller himself declared that shooting this film was the lowest point of his life – how is that for a good-bye present to MM whom he divorced before the premiere? MM OD’ed a year later. Not his fault or responsibility, of course.

Yet the thing that eventually makes me want to STRANGLE him if he weren’t dead already is that he had his son Daniel, born in 1966 with Down Syndrome, put in a home immediately and permanently straight after his birth. Arthur Miller is said to be the one who insisted – shame on the mother Inge Morath for agreeing to that as well. Daniel was excluded from their lives entirely – how’s that for a private witch hunt?

According to the Daily Mail, Daniel Day-Lewis, the husband of their daughter Rebecca, made him reunite with Daniel when his son had already turned 40 – although I am not quite sure how that would have worked out, as Daniel Miller turned 40 in 2006 and Arthur Miller died in 2005. In any case, if he saw him at all, it was pretty close to his own death.

By the way, another douchebag who exluded his son from his life is Desmond Dekker, the singer of “The Israelites”. I know because Lenina and I celebrated Christmas with his son Desmond, called Desy, in 2000. Desy is a musician and DJ who needs a wheelchair and the help of a personal assistant to help him get around – seemingly too much for Desmond Snr to cope with. He looks very much like his father who died in 2006. This might be his Myspace-Profile – at least he looks like Desy. Dr Lenina, please advice!

Tagged over and over again! Unread Books

October 9, 2007 at 8:49 am | Posted in Literature | 5 Comments
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Jetsam tagged me, and now I have to go through this list of seemingly 106 books and reveal whether I have read them or not. I have to mark them in the following way:
Bold what you have read, italicize your DNFs (‘did not finish), strikethrough the ones you hated, and put asterisks next to those you read more than once.
I will appear terribly illiterate after doing this, and even more so because I will introduce a new symbol: I’ll put an WTM next to the ones that I watched as movie or TV series.

Jonathan Strange & M. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The Name of the Rose WTM
Don Quixote WTM
Moby Dick WTM
Ulysses DNF
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice WTM
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World ***
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein WTM
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula WTM
A Clockwork Orange WTM
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels WTM
Les misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The unbearable lightness of being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-Five***
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame WTM
Freakonomics
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow DNF
The Hobbit***
In Cold Blood
White teeth WTM
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Well, I AM barely literate. But at least I haven’t read Mists of Avalon (unlike all of my female relatives) – it might even be not half as bad, but the cover was so off-putting I didn’t want to be caught reading it.

Mists of Avalon

My first exclusive reading

June 25, 2007 at 10:35 am | Posted in Friends, Literature | 5 Comments
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Yesterday my first exclusive*) reading took place, organized by two friends and colleagues of mine. If these friends didn’t exist, and had I not mentioned the fact that I write to them, then I doubt that I would ever have submitted anything to a writing competition. I would not have been invited to Berlin and Brandenburg and of course the reading would not have taken place either. Thank you again, Susanne and Greg, for making this possible! I’m a very happy bunny right now:-)

Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny Happybunny

I read the piece that I had submitted to the writing competition and another one, a new one. I was nervous only for seconds, and then found it surprisingly easy to read to this audience of approximately 20-25 people. Putting on the author’s persona was facile, it was so easy that I even managed to entertain the audience in the break between the two pieces that I read. But the best part was the feedback I got from the audience after the reading, the personal feedback, the many encouraging words I received that asked me to keep writing, the thoughts that people offered about the texts and what they had stirred in them. Yes, I am really determined to turn at least one of these pieces into a novel soon:-)

*) Exclusive in the sense of: nobody else was reading, and the people that came had come because they had received an invitation with my name and face on it.

Locked-in with 80 women

June 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm | Posted in Literature, Women | 2 Comments
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This is day 4 of the women writers’ forum, and day 2 of our stay in Rheinsberg, Mark Brandenburg. We are residing in an old manion on the first part of the lake, or rather the belt of lakes as their are all connected. Very interesting. It is still apparent that this is a historically challenged region, not only because of the 40 years of being part of the German Democratic Republic. The older houses which you can see here are often teeny-tiny (the mansion and the palace of course are relatively huge) and I can imagine that living here permanentally may be quite suicidal. But I’m here with a mission and the weather is more than gorgeous, so I have no reasons to complain:-)

One thing one could complain about: The Brandenburg session started with 60 one-minute lectures, with each of the writers presenting a teeny-tiny portion of their work. Apart from those regular 60 participants, there are the organizers, all of which published authors, who were scheduled to read in the evening. 8 of them, and 10 minutes for each. But, boy, bitches! The first one hogged the limelight for an incredible 23 minutes, the second one went up to 20 minutes, and both presented work that would have benefitted greatly if they had kept it shorter – essayistic, Joyce-esque writing and semi-automatic poems. Only two of those organizers stayed within the limit of 10 minutes they had imposed upon themselves – the others seemingly had the impression that they deserved more, dragging out the whole event to last 3 instead of the scheduled 2 hours.

Other than that: I left my drama workshop and joined the faction workshop, which was definitely a wise decision, in particular after having witnessed the performance of the lady in charge of drama. More about that later, maybe, gotta rush back to the theatre.

Marlene Streeruwitz rocks!

June 11, 2007 at 7:16 am | Posted in Literature, Women, Writing | 2 Comments
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On the 2nd day of the women’s writer forum, Marlene Streeruwitz spoke in a so-called panel discussion – why they called it a panel discussion I don’t know. The other woman who was invited to join the panel did not say anything substantial, but instead kept asking Marlene insidious, stupid questions (such as: “when is the female writer happy?” arf) or said banal things about her novels (“I find it difficult to identify with your characters”). I think the “discussion” lasted about an hour (with a moderator also taking a seat on stage) and I enjoyed every little piece that Mrs Streeruwitz said. I am unable to reproduce any of it, the general topic was ‘happiness’ and ‘feminine writing’ (as expected – but with a different twist), and the first thing that pleased me was her laid-back, almost cheerful manner – nothing of the slightly frustrated feminist that I thought to have noted the day before. She used the words ‘hegemony’ and ‘hegemonial’ about 20 times, and I doubt that only half of the people in the room understood what she was talking about, but it spoke to me and I drank all her words. She shook off all those banal questions and gave long, but elaborate and witty,often even funny responses – I am really looking forward to hearing more from her in the days to come.Btw: She also completed a PhD recently, at an American university – I need to find out with whom and about what exactly and add the info to Wikipedia.

A little post in the middle of everything

June 10, 2007 at 8:49 am | Posted in Blogging, Feminism, Literature, Spam | Leave a comment

So they’ve got internet here in Berlin! 20 minutes in the hotel cost 1 Euro, but I couldn’t resist. The opening event yesterday was both interesting, kind of what I expected and kind of bette than what I feared. Marlene Streeruwitz gave a smart opening lecture, whilst at the same time sounding quite frustrated – not a surprise to see that happend to some feminists. The text that won the first prize… would have never received my first prize, a gothic tale about a man with one normal abled arm and a hook on the other one (question of realism – that is just not done anymore, certainly not in German speaking countries) who jerks off sitting by the pool, watching his daughter and a girl-friend coming to visit…. complete with tiny ‘continuity errors’ such as “he folded his hands above his stomach” – how is he supposed to do that if one hand is an iron hook?

Other than that, the quality of my spam is going up:

Hello all

I’m Shweinz, great resourse, and anaj.wordpress.com is a pretty looking domain name 🙂
hope to find interesting people here! Also I find that category “this” is very useful )))
A little bit about me – I like swimming, playing secrets to playing slots , volleybal, basketball, grandonline casino and of course computer gaming and playing poker dice

Good buy all!

Off to the Autorinnenforum – and my ghost keeps writing

June 7, 2007 at 11:09 am | Posted in Gender, Literature, Women | 5 Comments
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Tomorrow in the very early morning I am going to get on a train to Zürich-Flughafen
and from there take a plane to Berlin to visit some friends and the attend the Autorinnenforum, the actual reason of going to Berlin. It’s going to be a six-day-event and I suppose that can only mean that the majority of those who are going to attend do NOT have day jobs to tend to (unlike me). The list of participants is out now, the names of nine women at the bottom appear out of alphabetical order, including mine – I take this as an indicator that my name was on indeed on the waiting list, and 9 sounds to me like a relatively high number of people who decided they couldn’t make it (probably those with days jobs).

I am both excited to go and a little concerned: after all, I am going to attend a meeting where the main criterion of selection is going to be sex (not even gender). But that’s not the top-most criterion of my social selection. In a random group of people, I might begin by introducing myself to the females, but at the end of the day I would probably have had more significant exchanges with men than with women. Who’s to blame – me or the women (or the men, maybe?) The good thing is, however, the older you get, the less you will be confronted with random groups, which raises the ratio of interesting women tremendously.

As a teenager, I found the process of social gender formation extremely painful – I observed how the girls in my age group slowly transformed into little women, but the result was nothing but appalling to me. They talked nonsense most of the time and began to bounce their boobs, shake their hair and show their bellies. They also began to develop a typical co-dependent female identity – dependent upon the approval and attention of the boys (of course I wasn’t able to describe it with such terms back then). It was next to impossible to have a decent conversation with them – and at a slightly later stage of being a teenager, I found out that decent conversations with guys were well possible.

Of course there were exceptions from the rule – I know that the women that I care about today made similar experiences back then, and also that until today their guest lists are often dominated by men. The question has also to be raised whether we – as former guy-girls (Kumpelmädels) – aren’t probably sometimes a bit biased toward other women. At the place where I (still, but not for very much longer) work, I initiated a women’s circle a while ago – that’s nothing that was to be expected from me, but there was an apparent need for networking among the women. And I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the meetings – of course this wasn’t a random selection of women either, with all of them having a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Most of these women are ten or more years older than me, and that also made things easier, I guess, as undoubtedly these women know a lot and have an incredible amount of experience to share.

So if the women I am going to encounter at the women writers forum are all going to be like them, I will be fine. I also don’t think that I must expect a significant amount of mainstream, I-stopped-developing-my-identity-when-I-snared-myself-a-husband females (they still exist – I just had an irritating encounter with one of our former secretaries who is my age and does nothing but push her pram about town ever since she married and had her first child a year ago – it was hard to talk to her before, now it has become next to impossible). But I am a little afraid of an encounter with women who are keen on all that talk about the superior emotional intelligence of women, generally with women who think that a room full of women is per se better than anything else, and I am also a little of afraid of a particular type of literature that is considered feminine, which often doesn’t have a plot but offers lengthy examinations of altering emotions. So I admit that I am a bit afraid of écriture féminine. Or actually: not of écriture féminine, but of lame attempts at écriture féminine, and of people who think that a text, by virtue of being enigmatic and being written by a female, must be of superior quality. I hope there isn’t going to be much of that.

Other than that: Although I am away, the posts will keep coming. I couldn’t sleep last light and cranked out quite a few which are timed to be published over the next few days.

No more interest

June 4, 2007 at 8:43 am | Posted in Blogging, Literature | 7 Comments
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So it happened. I am suddenly no more interested in blogging. This has a lot to do with the lack of a computer and working internet connection at home of course. It happens just like that. But today my new computer is supposed to arrive – let’s see whether this changes anything. I hope they deliver it to me in person – I am always conscious about things disappearing in this place that pretends to be a university. Other than that: No news yet from the museum guy – but who’d expect that really (it’s a hope nonetheless). Tired today because I read until half past three both last night and the night before. I’ve been noticing for a while now that I seem to be able to read again, and in particular: read fast. Although: It was a 600 pages novel by Olivia Goldsmith – authof of The first wives club who died from complications from plastic surgery, my God, what a way to die (in particular since the book I read, Bestseller, was among other things about a face-lifted women’s novels writer, and she didn’t make her look good) – meaning that my newly retrieved ability to focus on the printed word extends only to things that I do NOT HAVE to read, for either study or work – the problem started around 2001 I think, when reading became de riguer for finishing my degree. I am actually almost addicted to reading right now, and willing to read ANYTHING I can lay my hands on. On Friday, I bought, seven books on the flea market, for one Euro each.

_a Henning Mankell, return of the dancing instructor or something like that (which I gave to one of the cleaning ladies right I way – I have an allergy towards bookclub hardcovers; but surprisingly not to cheap paperbacks of slush).
_the mentioned Olivia Goldsmith (in English)
_D.H. Lawrence: Women in Love (in English)
_a Knut Hamsun
_a book by Loriot, ‘little prose’
_a non-fiction book about Jewish belief and religion
_and Karl May‘s Der Schut:-)

Hans Sachs, Schuhmacher und Poet (1491-1576)

April 30, 2007 at 7:01 am | Posted in German, Literature | 2 Comments
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hans SachsHeute ist mir nach einem deutschen Post zumute, wie auch anders, wenn mir Hans Sachs, der wortgewaltige Sprücheklopfer der frühen Neuzeit zwischen die Finger gerät:

Der Hans Sachs, der war ein Schuh-
macher und Poet dazu.

O-Ton Hans Sachs. Wer kennt ihn noch? In der Volkstanz- und Trachtengruppe meiner Mutter ist er wohlbekannt, dort spielen die aktiven Mitglieder (50-60jährig) den passiven Mitgliedern (70-90jährig) alljährlich am Dorfabend ein Hans-Sachs-Stück vor, dieses Jahr Das Kälberbrüten Selbiges Stück wurde auch schon Mitte der siebziger aufgeführt, wie Fotodokumente bezeugen, und sicherlich auch in der Zwischenzeit. Was allerdings kein gerechtfertigter Anlass zum Unken ist, auch nicht, dass die späteren Meistersinger ihr Regelwerk zur Beurteilung so streng angewendet haben, dass die Kunst im Keim erstickt wurde (mehr dazu in Wagners Meistersingern von Nürnberg).

108 Schauspiele, ca. 1800 Spruchgedichte und 4275 Meisterlieder soll der singende Schuhmacher verfasst haben – ein Meisterlied war ein Lied, dessen Text und Melodie der Autor selbst verfasst hatte, um es beim Zunfttreffen vorzutragen. Hauptsächlich Handwerker schlossen sich den Meistersingerzünften an – welch ein Luxus und wie schön wäre es, wenn Handwerk und Bildung im direktesten Sinn der Menschenbildung auch heute noch zusammenspielten:-)

Ich selbst liebäugele ja mit der Idee des Einrichtens einer Toastmaster Gesellschaft, auch wenn mir derzeit die kulturellen Ressourcen dazu fehlen. Zudem müsste ich mich in einer Gegend wohnhaft befinden, in der ich etwas von dem mir Angeeigneten an meine Umgebung und Umwelt zurückgeben wollte, und das ist hier derzeit nicht der Fall (würde ich auf dem Dorf wohnen, auf dem Mutter wohnt, würde ich wohl bald dem Volkstanz beitreten, um dort ebenfalls Hans-Sachs-Spiele zu spielen, aber ein solcher Umzug ist auch sehr sehr unwahrscheinlich in irgendeiner Zukunft)

Da in unseren Zeiten die Frage des Im Beruf Erfüllung Findens eine gar übermächtige spielt, wäre das nicht ein schöner Gedanke: Dienst ist Dienst und Schnap ist Schnaps, den Schuhmacherleisten am Tage und des Abends die Meistersingerzunft! Schon allein der Gedanke einer regelmäßigen Einkommensquelle, die einem erlaubt, die Freizeit zu verbringen mit ergötzlicheren Dingen wie der Wer war eigentlich Hans Sachs? erscheint mir wunderbar. In diesem Lichte bin ich immer noch erleichtert, dass ich den Doktoratsversuchungen nicht erlegen bin, wer braucht das legitime kulturelle Kapital? (Billige rhetorische Frage, den mit einem M.A. steh ich ja auch nicht als Waisenkind da).

Zurück zum Kälberbrüten: Ein ungeschickter Bauer, kaum ist die Bäurin aus dem Haus, lässt den Hof verkommen, die Katze das Fleisch fressen, das Kraut verbrennen, das Schwein in den Garten und das Kalb im Brunnen ertrinken. Vor Räue versucht er, es wieder gut zu machen – indem er einen Käse bebrütet. Bei den Eiern klappts ja auch. Die Bärtin hält ihn nun gänzlich für vom Teufel besessen und schafft es mit dem Pfarrer ihn von seinem Käsenest herunter zu holen:

Der Pfaff
Mein Hans, was wollst du brüten aus?
Der Bauer
(schreit, zeigt ihm einen Käse und spricht)
Kälber! Seht’s Wahrzeichen wohl,
Der Käs, der steckt von Maden voll,
Unten und oben, hinten und vorn;
Das wären eitel Kälber worn,
Hätt’ ihr mich nit davon gerissen.
Der Pfaff
Hans, ich wollt’ gern von dir wissen,
Wer dich die Kunst gelehret hat.
Der Bauer
Furcht, Sorg’ und Angst mich lehren tät,
Welche ich hatt’ zu meiner Frauen.
Der Pfaff
Sag’ uns die Wahrheit, laß’ uns schauen
Wie sich solch’ alles zugetragen.
Der Bauer
Die Sach’ mag ich euch gerne sagen:
Doch daß ich sicher vor dir sei!
Die Bäuerin
Ja, du sollst sein quitt, ledig, frei,
Ich muß doch sein mit dir erschlagen.

Das Fernsehen der frühen Neuzeit:-))) Den ganzen Text gibt es beim Projekt Gutenberg. Schöner sind die Texte bei den Wikicommons, da in Originalsatz erhalten, aber da gibt es das Kälberbrüten nicht. Aber auch hübsch: Der schwangere Pawer (der schwangere Bauer).

Elfriede’s Blog

April 26, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Austria, Blogging, Literature | 8 Comments
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Elfriede JelinekAnd for a brief moment I thought I had discovered Elfriede Jelinek‘s blog. Why, after all, should she not have one, forefront thinker, Nobel Prize winner after all? Amazing enough: She’s going to turn 61 this year. Can’t be, she’s pegged in my mind as a perpetual 40 (image to the left shows her in 2000, age 53, and still she looks like 40).

The thing about Elfriede: I am glad I do not (have to) write the way or the stuff she does. Although I LOVE the way she writes (but would be unable to defend it). I can see and measure the depths from which she is reporting, but I wouldn’t want to go down there myself. I think I’d lose my mind. It is a selfish approach, but whenever I read a piece by her, I disregard the literary message and try to relate to the person behind the text. That is what interests me most, her texts are barriers, and I have never been particularly impressed by those barrier-type texts (think: Ingeborg Bachmann, that other Austrian writer, which, if you would forgive me, I was never able to make sense of), but I always imagined to have a vague sense of the person BEHIND those texts. I would so much like to meet her one day, but of course that is not very likely. And meet her the way I’d like to meet her is completely ruled out: a friendly conversation about nothing in which we would have to have some OTHER thing to look at, to distract us and deflect our conversation from the actual encounter. This year’s opera ball would have been a splendid opportunity, we could have made fun of Paris Hilton and have used these jokes as a foot path to deeper conversations… just a dream of course.

And now I found her ‘blog’, but only to discover that it is none. Her so-called blog is hosted on a really sweet compuserve address, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/elfriede/. In spite of the name of the address, it does not reveal a single word of her, it all stays carefully fictional. Worst of all, it specifies theater@rowohlt.de as contact address – rowohlt being one of the key German publishing houses. Dream on, my soul – there are thousands of women (probably not too many men) writers out there who would love to establish personal contact with Elfriede – and it’s just not gonna happen that easy. And of course she (or her publisher) are going to protect any of her words in as much as possible.

But deep inside myself, I hope that she has an anonymous blog where she doesn’t present herself as a Nobel prize winning author, but where she simply writes about the boring things that happen in any blogger’s life (and how cool would it be if found that blog:-)

I’m going to the Women Authors’ Forum!

April 16, 2007 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Literature, Novel, Women, Writing | 10 Comments
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I really won me a place in the Autorinnenforum! Sometimes life is just to good to be true – my endorphin levels were already ridiculously high after being accepted at the Microlearning conference, and now I am in for another Writer’s high.

Now, this one is by far the higher one. When I came home from work today, I had two big envelopes in the post: my weekly subscription of the SPIEGEL and another one, soon to be identified as a message from the Forum. Interesting looking envelopes are normally ripped open right away, but I didn’t dare to do that today. It’s not that I have participated a lot or in any significant writing competitions so far (this definitely being the most important one), but if I really think back hard, there might have been two or three or even more, most of which are already blissfully forgotten or repressed;-)

But the sight of the envelope brought back those feelings of disappointment and irrelevance that always followed the arrival of mail from the organizers of such competitions. In the past of course, the envelopes were the small ones – the sight of a BIG envelope immediately kindled the hope that it might after all come true: That I might be among the few chosen ones. And I didn’t want to open the envelope too fast, I wanted to hold on to that sweet sensation…

…and I don’t think I’ve ever been engulfed in a similarly delirious emotion like I was in the first twenty seconds after realizing that I was indeed invited to join the forum:-) YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! Still can’t believe it – and hope it’s not too late to respond, because they request the registration form back by April 16 – which is today. Then again, the message was only mailed on Friday the 13th (my lucky day from now on;-) so I must have been on the waiting list. Double lucky me!!!

Ok, and here’s the deal: The forum takes place in Berlin, from the 9th until the 14th of June, it includes a festive opening night, a symposium and three days of writing workshops. Woah! 548 women entered their texts, 60 were chosen. There’s also prize money to give away on which I shan’t put any hopes, as a likely waiting list candidate, but the workshop (as a first trigger to the shaping of my writer personality) was what I was in for anyway:-) I signed up for short story (1st wish), novel (2nd wish) and drama (3rd wish).

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORAY!

The Intersex Condition

April 13, 2007 at 10:03 am | Posted in Gender, Literature, sex | Leave a comment
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I finally continued reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex. I had been a bit disappointed by it, because I had expected something more outspokenly political, something to advocate the case of intersexuality. It takes the novel forever to get to that topic though, with the story beginning with the protagonist’s grandparents, Greek brother and sister declaring themselves husband and wife on their journey to America in the 1920s, then covering the story of father and mother, both cousins, and finally arriving at what I had hoped to be the key topic way after half of the novel. I had finally decided to skip everything I wasn’t interested in – the passages told from the perspective of the grown-up character who had decided to live as a male were the ones that interested me most.

Of course one could also argue that it was laudable of Eugenides to _not_ dwell on the intersex issue too much, in order not to sensationalize the topic. And he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction anyway, so who am I too complain.

Lying down with the flu I took to the novel again, this time reading everything I had skipped previously (I have tons of student assignments to correct, but when I am ill reading these just seems to be so much more strenuous), finally arriving at the chapters that cover Calliope’s teenage years when here condition, 5-alpha-reductase-deficiency, was finally discovered. To put the effects of this condition in a nutshell: The protagonist is genetically male (XY), but with no developed male genitalia in utero, due to this very deficiency. The individual begins to virilize only during puberty, the testicles, hitherto hidden within the body, begin to descend and a penis (up to this point only a slightly larger clitoris) begins to grow. What doesn’t grow are breasts, and no menstruation sets in, as there are no ovaries or uterus. The fact of the individual being taken for female at birth mostly have to do with the absence of a proper penis or testicles.

What happens most of the time, if patriarchy (which only accepts full penises) and cosmetic surgery (the proof that man can change whatever he wishes) have their way, is that these individuals are then medically feminised: through surgery and hormones. The mere thought of it makes me angry and what the novel was good at was showing how and why a teenager can easily be coerced into NOT disagreeing with patriarchy’s and surgery’s wish – how is a thirteen or fourteen year old who hitherto thought of herself as a female, supposed to decide anyway? How many people do only find out after puberty that they are interested in the same sex? Once the penis has been removed, of course, it’s gone, and the personality and psyche irrevocably damaged – the main point of the operation seems to be to set parents and society at ease to whom the thought of ambiguous genitalia is plainly unbearable.

The same destiny seemed to be awaiting Calliope – but Eugenides regained my favour just in time by allowing Calliope to escape surgery. YES! Maybe for his research, I wondered, he had also stumbled upon this case reported by a Dr. Reddy in Hyderabad, India, which describes a case of surgical and hormonal “correction” in a case of 5-alpha-reductase-deficiency, using exactly the same irritating lines of argument that Eugenides’ Dr. Luce used to describe Calliope:

A diagnosis of 5 alpha reductase deficiency syndrome was made after detail workup. Patient was counselled and in view that the patient was brought up as a female, decision of orchidectomy was done on 18.6.02. Postoperatively patient was fine and discharged on day 5 on ethinyloestradiol and asked to follow up on OPD basis. Cliteroplasty and urethral reconstruction was advised after a period of 1 year. The geneticist is responsible for verifying the karyotype and discussing with the family the autosomal dominant sex-linked nature of 5-ARD, which includes the recurrence risk of 1:8 for each subsequent pregnancy (50% of XY foetuses) and the potential for prenatal diagnosis.

Orchidectomy = removal of the testicles (Orchid = testicle). Oh, this makes me sooooo angry! For as long as mankind exists, such phenomena have occurred and even made their way into mythology as Hermaphroditus. But give mankind cosmetic surgery, and they’ll erase whatever might put them off ease!

👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

April 12, 2007 at 8:51 am | Posted in Literature | 5 Comments
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VonnegutKurt Vonnegut died yesterday, according to Wikipedia “after a fall several weeks prior resulted in irreversible brain injuries.” I’ve got a copy of Slaughterhouse Five which I never finished reading. I think I was 14 when I bought it and somehow didn’t get the point of it. Maybe this would be a good time to try again.

If I ever stop coughing the stuff I am coughing right now, that is. I’ve got a fully-fledged flu now, although I got the flu shot.

Happy Easter Holiday!

April 7, 2007 at 2:32 pm | Posted in Literature | Leave a comment
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In three hours I’ll be off to Upper Austria to meet up with my boyfriend there. I’ll give myself a blog break in the meantime. You should too: give your self some sort of break, from something. Compulsory reading, for instance;-)

I’m facing a six hour train ride now during which I’ll either sleep (very likely – I didn’t sleep at all last night, but worked on a last minute equality paper) or read the House of Mirth. I’m worried now that Lily might either end up as a charwoman herself one day, or that she’ll have to marry Sim Rosedale. And it seems pretty unavoidable now that Gus Trenor is going the put the moves on her, and that’ll turn her sole friend Judy into her enemy. *Schnief*

Flower

P.S. Please mind the post below!

Plato: Socrates and Phaedrus about Writing 37/40

April 5, 2007 at 3:13 am | Posted in Literature, Writing | 11 Comments
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SOCRATES: Yes, because there’s something odd about writing, Phaedrus, which makes it exactly like painting. The offspring of painting stand there as if alive, but if you ask them a question they maintain an aloof silence. It’s the same with written words: you might think they were speaking as if they had some intelligence, but if you want an explanation of any of the things they’re saying and you ask them about it, they just go on and on forever giving the same single piece of information. Once any account has been written down, you find it all over the place, hobnobbing with completely inappropriate people no less than with those who understand it, and completely failing to know who it should and shouldn’t talk to. And faced with rudeness and unfair abuse it always needs its father to come to its assistance, since it is incapable of defending or helping itself.

Plato: Phaedrus. Translated by Robin Waterfield. Oxford University Press 2002, p. 70.

Lent “Daily” Lent – Day 37: Easter is coming soon! Soon I will be stuffing my face with cake, Wiener Schnitzel and Jagertee! Cookies, Brathendl and beer! Espresso with sugar, Gulasch and Blaufränkisch!

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